Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Travel With Our Girl (And Our Experience Opting-Out)

M playing with her Irish lamb on the trip home
We just spent a lovely long weekend with my parents and friends. Thanksgiving was our first plane trip, and I was a little nervous about taking two flights each way with a baby. When M was 3 months old, I attempted a trip back east, but she was colicky. At that time, we waited to board the plane for two hours while it was delayed. And she screamed. For 2 hours. I gave up and went back home.

This was our second attempt at 8 months, and it was much smoother. Miss M coasted through security, happy as a clam. Daddy was the one who had trouble. We had read about the back-scatter machines and decided to opt-out. Despite claims in the press that the radiation was equal to about 10 minutes on the airplane, a letter from scientists at UCSF had me concerned that even the small amount of radiation on the skin would be a risk to all of us. And we didn't object to the enhanced pat-downs. B agreed with the concerns and decided to opt-out with me. While we were waiting in the security line at our home airport, we kept our eyes peeled for those new devices, and sure enough, there was the bulky machine with illustrations of the appropriate posture on the outside.

M and I were only sent through the metal detector, but B was pegged for the special screening. I waited and watched while B talked with the TSA agent and was sent to a designated area. Another agent donned fresh gloves and proceded to pat-down my hubby. No big deal. Definitely thorough, but it appeared friendly. It was clear that B was the only passenger 'opting-out,' and we were getting a lot of funny looks. Thinking to myself that we all must be sheep if this is the first guy to refuse the radiation, I was proud of B for making an informed choice.

After we were given the all-clear, we gathered our things and assessed the situation. Apparently, when B told the agent he was opting-out, the security guy clarified that it wasn't the x-ray machine he was being asked to stand in. Assuming the agent was just poo-pooing his concerns, B quickly retorted, "No. I'm opting out." As I observed, he went through the pat-down, and B said the second agent was clearly uncomfortable about touching my husband in his special places. B tried to joke about the gloves making him nervous (a la cavity search), but it didn't bother him as much as the poor TSA agent. After all that hoopla, we was the trace explosives detector. No radiation. A puff of air. Oops. I'm pretty sure we were the subject of a few funny stories over turkey that night. We didn't see a single back-scatter machine the entire trip. What a bunch of fuss over nothing.

M was great. She nursed on take-off and landing to prevent any ear aches from the pressure change, and it worked like a charm. I've read that any kind of sucking on a bottle or pacifier works, too. Nursing is what was easiest for us. She played or napped during each flight and only fussed a little when her diaper was wet. Only one of the 4 planes we took had a changing station in the bathroom, so B sat on the toilet lid and changed her on his lap. Not ideal, but it worked. Thankfully, there were no poopy diapers in-flight. (Before children, I once watched a woman change a very stinky, poopy diaper on the airplane seat. No blanket or any kind of barrier. Gross!!!)

When she's older and not guaranteed to nurse every time she's presented with a boob, we're going to invest in some EarPlanes. They come in children's and adult sizes. My cousins used these for years, and I even used adult ones when flying with a sinus infection. They work wonders!

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